Tuesday 16 December 2008

The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)

Major Gaskill runs Fort Concho in Indian country but wagons full of rifles and other weapons keep going missing in the territory he's sworn to protect. It's being blamed on Indians but it's pretty obvious that there's something more sinister going on. And into this territory ride Amos and Theodore, the walking disaster zones from the first film. They're the only two characters to return from The Apple Dumpling Gang because Disney realised that they were the main reason why people enjoyed it, not the plot and not the kids.

Amos and Theodore are the dumb pair of crooks from the first film, played by Tim Conway and Don Knotts, and they're just as dumb here, even though there are no kids to outwit them. There's a cursory mention at the beginning of why nobody else is here from film one but nobody really cares, not least the Apple Dumpling Gang themselves. This is entirely about how much chaos Amos and Theodore can wreak, even when attempting to go straight, regardless of whatever other plot elements get thrown in there, like the undercover work to track down who's really been stealing the army's guns and the love story between Private Reed and the Major's daughter.

To gauge the sort of thing they get up to without even trying, they even try to open a bank account but the Junction City Bank is being robbed and so they give their money directly to the robbers. As the only folks in the bank at the time, they accidentally get the drop on Marshal Woolly Bill Hitchcock, the fastest gun in the west, and so become the primary suspects in the case. Hitchcock, played with serial villain relish by Kenneth Mars, is an over the top fine figure of a man beloved by everyone except Old Tough Kate, who's blind as a bat but sees through him without any worries.

They escape from Junction City in the back of a wagon but end up instead drunk as skunks inside Gaskill's fort. They get pressganged into service, promptly burn the place to the ground, get shipped off to prison and yet still manage to win the day. There have been a lot of films with heroes that are totally clueless and these two can't match someone like say, Inspector Clouseau, but they do give it a mighty fine try. Given that there's next to nothing else here, even with such names as Jack Elam, Harry Morgan, Audrey Totter and Tim Matheson lending a hand, that's a good job.

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